• Michael Landy’s Essex idols are a reinterpretation of the Dagenham Idol, a four-thousand-year-old wooden figure that was unearthed in 1922 in Rainham Marshes, Dagenham, downstream from London on the north bank of the Thames. The figure, made of Scots pine, was found by workmen for the Ford Dagenham automotive factory, about twenty feet below the ground surface, and has been carbon dated to around 2250 BC, making it one of the earliest representations of the human form found in Europe.

     

    Landy conceived of the Essex Idol when working towards the exhibition Michael Landy’s Welcome to Essex at Firstsite, Colchester (2021). Aiming to make an idol more befitting of contemporary Essex and its stereotypes of brash and unrefined tastes – stereotypes created and perpetuated by the British media over the last thirty years – Landy made a unique gold-leafed bronze idol, which was displayed at Firstsite as if it had been excavated from under the gallery floor. While the original idol is made of Scots pine, Landy’s Essex Idol is cast in bronze and finished with gold leaf to achieve a shinier, ‘blingier’ contemporary version.

  • Michael Landy Essex Idol, 2021 bronze, 24ct gold 47.5 x 9 x 5 cm (18 3/4 x 3 1/2 x...
    Michael Landy
    Essex Idol, 2021
    bronze, 24ct gold
    47.5 x 9 x 5 cm (18 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 2 in)
    unique
  • The Dagenham Idol has many poor copies found in museum collections that act as display imitations of the original, which is held in the collection of Colchester Museums and on long-term loan to Vallance House. Indeed there are two copies on display in the Museum of London alone. These multiple versions of the idol, with varying levels of veracity in relation to the original, inspired Landy to further expand his play on notions of original, copy, and value by replicating his unique and precious gold-leafed Essex Idol in a series of ‘knock-offs’ in edition form and of decreasing faithfulness to the original.

  • Michael Landy Tabletop Idol, 2021 polyester resin, 23ct gold, PETG, welsh slate 57 x 20 x 17 cm (22 1/2...
    Michael Landy
    Tabletop Idol, 2021
    polyester resin, 23ct gold, PETG, welsh slate
    57 x 20 x 17 cm (22 1/2 x 7 7/8 x 6 3/4 in)
    edition of 3
     
    The 46cm tall shiny golden Tabletop Idol (edition of 3) is an exact 1:1 copy of the Dagenham Idol. It has a detachable magnetic phallus, alluding to scholarly uncertainty and speculation over the function of the hole in the pubic region of the Dagenham Idol. Some scholars argue the figure represents the Viking god Odin, a shapeshifter who could embody both the female and male forms; some believe the hole to represent female genitalia, while others believe that the idol once had a detachable phallus, now lost, similar to other surviving figures of this period.

     

  • Michael Landy Mantelpiece Idol, 2021 polished brass, slate, 23ct gold 22 x 7 x 5 cm (8 5/8 x 2...
    Michael Landy
    Mantelpiece Idol, 2021
    polished brass, slate, 23ct gold
    22 x 7 x 5 cm (8 5/8 x 2 3/4 x 2 in)
    edition of 6
     

    The polished brass Mantelpiece Idol (edition of 6) is mounted on a slate base with ‘Essex Idol’ inscribed in 24ct gold lettering. It is a miniature replica, in the style of a high-end souvenir or a mantelpiece memento.

  • Michael Landy Knock-off Idol, 2021 polyester resin, cardboard, PVC, aluminium 32 x 10.5 x 10.5 cm (12 5/8 x 4...
    Michael Landy
    Knock-off Idol, 2021
    polyester resin, cardboard, PVC, aluminium
    32 x 10.5 x 10.5 cm (12 5/8 x 4 1/8 x 4 1/8 in)
    edition of 20
    signed and numbered by the artist
     

    The boxed Knock-off Idol (edition of 20) is presented as a low-end imitation, like a replica doll one might expect to find on the stalls of Romford Market or, as stereotype would have it, buy out the back of a white van from an entrepreneurial local. This is the least detailed copy and finished in the most garish gold, emulating mass-market reproduction merchandise.

  • Michael Landy's Welcome to Essex

    Click here for further information on Michael Landy's Welcome to Essex at Firstsite, Colchester, UK.

     

    Watch a documentary film on Michael Landy's Welcome to Essex online.

     

    Read a feature on the exhibition by Scott Reyburn in The New York Times.

     

  • Michael Landy Michael Landy

    Michael Landy was born in London, UK in 1963, where he lives and works. He attended Goldsmith’s College, London, in 1988. Landy’s multi-disciplinary practice examines consumerism, commodification, value, ownership and labour in a body of work spanning meticulous drawings, installation, and large-scale public commissions.

     

    Selected solo and group shows include: Michael Landy's Welcome to Essex, Firstsite, Colchester, UK (2021); Scaled-Down, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, England (2018); Open for Business at the first Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (2018); DEMONSTRATION, The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada (2017-18); Breaking News, Sperone Westwater, New York NY (2017); Breaking News – Athens, Neon/Diplarios School, Athens, Greece (2017); Out of Order, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland (2016); Saints Alive, National Gallery, London, England (2013); Michael Landy: Four Walls, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England (2013); Art World Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, England (2011); Art Bin, South London Gallery, London, England (2010). Selected public collections include: Tate Collection, London; the Arts Council England; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York NY; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; Royal Academy, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis MN. Landy was elected as a Royal Academician in May 2008.

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